Can an employer refuse an employee's request to return to work from maternity leave on a part-time basis?

If an employer refuses to allow an employee who has taken maternity leave to return to work on a part-time basis, it may be liable for a claim of sex discrimination. This is because, statistically, more women than men undertake the primary childcare role, so a requirement to work full time will have a disparate impact on the sexes and put women at a particular disadvantage when compared to men. If the employee cannot work full time, and the employer cannot objectively justify the need for them to do so, any subsequent dismissal, either actual or constructive, is likely to amount to indirect sex discrimination.